Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Wild Card series 2023 game #1 - Tornto Blue Jays (0-1) @ Minnesota Twins (1-0) - game recap.


Kevin Kiermaier drove in the only run for the Blue Jays in a 3-run loss to the Twins

After 162 games, the Blue Jays begin their 2023 postseason run after barely nabbing a playoff spot thanks to the Mariners losing to the Rangers in game 161.The fact that the Blue Jays had to rely on another team to clinch a playoff berth says a lot about how the season went. Pitching is perhaps the teams greatest strength and this series and the playoffs success/failure will be dictated by an offence that struggled mightily for much of the seasonwith driving in runners in scoring position.The Blue Jays sacrificed offence for defense with off-season trades of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez for Daulton Varsho and Erik Swanson. They also signed Kevin Kiermaier, who came up with several big plays in CF this season. The Blue Jays will be a bit weaker at the catcher position with Danny Jansen not ready to play after breaking his hand. He may be able to return should the Blue Jays advance as far as the ALCS or perhaps the world series. They say defense (and pitching) wins championships - we're about to find out how true that is with the Blue Jays trotting out a very strong quadrant of starters that starts with ace Kevin Gausman, who should get some Cy Young votes to Yusei Kikuchi, who had a rebound season after a disastrous 2022 season.

The Blue Jays will face the Minnesota Twins, the  winners of the AL Central. The Blue Jays and the Twins split the 6 games in the season series with the Twins outscoring the Blue Jays 28-26. Kevin Gausman got the start with Alejsandro Kirk behind the plate. George Springer was in his traditional leadoff spot and in RF. Kevin Kiermaier was in CF and Daulton Varsho was in LF. Vladdy was at 1B, Cavan Biggio got the start at 2B, Bo Bichette was at SS and Matt Chapman was at the hot corned. Brandon Belt served as DH.  We will soon see if this talented lineup can snap the five game playoff losing streak that dates back to 2016. The Twins have not won in 18 playoff games dating back to 2004. Someone's drought will be snapped and the other team will have to wait at least a day to snap the skid. Could the Blue Jays snap their five game playoff skid?  Here is today's game recap

Game Highlights:

  • The Twins opened the scoring in the bottom of the 1st as Royce Lewis whacked a 2-run blast to left; also scoring Edouard Julien
  • The Twins added a run in the top of the 3rd as Lewis bashed a solo jack to the opposite field in right-center 
  • Kevin Gausman pitching line: 4IP 3H 3R (all earned) 3BB 5K 73 pitches (43 for strikes)
  • The Blue Jays got one back in the top of the 6th as Kevin Kiermaier singled scoring Bo Bichette 
  • Pable Lopez pitching line: 5.2IP 5H 1R (earned) 2BB 3K 93 pitches (62 for strikes)
  • Jhoan Duran pitched a scoreless 9th for his 1st save of the playoffs 
  • Final score: Twins 3 Blue Jays 1

My Take:

  • Kevin Gausman was haunted by Twins rookie Royce Lewis who took him deep twice for all three runs the Twins got. The Twins showed lots or patience and forced Gausman to throw a ton of pitches early and eventually knocked him out of the game after just 4 innings. Gausman's struggles against the Twins, who have had his number his entire career, beating Gausman for the 5th time in his career.
  • The bullpen threw 4 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits while walking 3 and striking out 6. Chad Green and Genesis Cabrera retired every batter they faced.
  • The bats managed to get one back on a 6th inning RBI single by Kevin Kiermaier. In some ways, the 1st play of the game waas a microcosm of how the game was going to go and the Blue Jays narrowly avoided a huge scare when Jorge Polanco made a bad throw and caused Springer to tumble over Twins 1st baseman Alex Kiriloff. Runners in scoring position reared its ugly head yet again, highlighted by Vlad's leadoff double in the 8th, only to have the inning end in 7 pitches on strikeouts by Vlad and Cavan Biggio and an Alejandro Kirk ground out straight to 1st base.
  • By the way, the Blue Jays survived a second scare early when Kirk was hit by a pitch. Thankfully he was fine. 
  • Up next, the Blue Jays try to avoid being swept in the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 season. Jose Berrios starts against Twins righty Sonny Gray.